I’ve now been on 10mg of Trintellix for two full weeks. I still hope to finish tapering by early June, though that’ll partly depend on Ze Doctor: whereas I’m raring to go he’s much more restrained. And I need that restraint, because as much as I want to get this finished it’s far more important to do it slowly and properly. Yeah, it means the withdrawal symptoms are going to linger, but they’re nothing compared to what I experienced when I stopped taking antidepressants more-or-less cold turkey in 2014. As I wrote back then:
Day one was fine. Day two was okay. Day three was bad; day four was hellish. Day four was when the withdrawal symptoms really kicked in. Strangely enough I hadn’t really anticipated the possibility of negative side effects, yet they were myriad and surprisingly aggressive. I figured insomnia would be one of them, since one of my antidepressants was a sleeping aid, and it was. But what I didn’t reckon for was the nausea, dizziness, obsessive thoughts, or general sense of dread (not to mention some of the weirder side effects, like the inability to eat dairy or an itchy scalp). I think I was so focused on the end goal I never really stopped to consider the potential pitfalls. It took the better part of two weeks for the worst symptoms to abate.
I’ll take mild withdrawal symptoms over that any day.
(Not surprisingly the symptoms spiked during my recent work trip to Panama City, and in retrospect I probably should’ve waited till I was home before resuming the taper. My next trip, a ten-day jaunt to Dubai, Istanbul, and India, finishes on April 20; after that I’m home for good, one long weekend in Pittsburgh excepted.)
Those lingering side effects are abating. Meanwhile, the improved energy, motivation, and mental acuity remain, suggesting this taper’s establishing a new benchmark. I honestly feel as though I’ve begun uncovering the best version of me that’s ever existed (typical etc, but it’s true). It’s not just the taper that’s getting me there: it’s also the lifestyle changes, in particular a renewed commitment to proper diet. I can’t wait to see what the rest of 2018 brings. And I can’t wait to see how I’m feeling next week, when the new dosage should’ve fully kicked in.
It’s that time again: time to saddle up, bike a whole bunch of miles, and kick cancer’s butt.
Some immediate resources for you:
- My personal page. I’d be honoured if you’d consider donating to me. Thanks to those who have already; we’re almost a third of the way to our goal!
- Our team page. Once again I’ll be part of the Tragically Clipped, and once again it’ll be a power quarter consisting of Kevin (his ninth ride), Jonny T (second), and me (fifth), along with Heather Gardiner, who’ll be part of the crew. Together we’re going to raise over $7,500 for the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.
- “The Courage of Jill Costello” remains an almost indescribably potent piece of writing. I read it every once in a while to remind myself why things like the Ride to Conquer Cancer matter.
There’ll be lots more to come in the months ahead. On the amazing journey together we’ll ride!
I saw my first Leaf game 21 years ago today, a 3-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in what was my only visit to Maple Leaf Gardens (grocery shopping notwithstanding). In honour of the occasion, here’s a list of the 94 (and counting) Leaf games I’ve seen live. It should go without saying that all of them have been at the Air Canada Centre unless otherwise indicated.
- Mar. 12/97: Leafs vs. Blackhawks – Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto (2-3)
- Apr. 30/99: Leafs vs. Flyers (2-1 OT) (Eastern Conference Quarter Finals Game 5)
- Oct. 30/99: Leafs vs. Flames (2-1)
- Nov. 13/99: Leafs vs. Red Wings (1-1)
- Oct. 7/00: Leafs vs. Canadiens (2-0)
- Nov. 17/00: Leafs vs. Lightning (2-2)
- Dec. 2/00: Leafs vs. Rangers (8-2)
- Feb. 10/01: Leafs vs. Wings (3-3)
- Mar. 3/01: Leafs vs. Senators (2-3 OT)
- Oct. 9/01: Leafs vs. Mighty Ducks (6-1)
- Nov. 9/01: Leafs vs. Devils – Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, NJ (2-3 OT)
- Mar. 2/02: Leafs vs. Sabres (2-2)
- Mar. 30/02: Leafs vs. Devils (1-3)
- Apr. 10/02: Leafs vs. Rangers – Madison Square Garden, New York (7-2)
- May 28/02: Leafs vs. Hurricanes (1-2 OT) (Eastern Conference Finals Game 6)
- Oct. 14/02: Leafs vs. Penguins (4-5)
- Nov. 14/02: Leafs vs. Red Wings (1-2)
- Dec. 23/02: Leafs vs. Thrashers (5-1)
- Jan. 4/03: Leafs vs. Devils (2-1)
- Feb. 18/03: Leafs vs. Hurricanes (4-3)
- Oct. 13/03: Leafs vs. Capitals (2-2)
- Oct. 18/03: Leafs vs. Canadiens – Bell Centre, Montreal (1-0)
- Dec. 9/03: Leafs vs. Blues (2-3 OT)
- Dec. 20/03: Leafs vs. Canadiens (4-2)
- Dec. 23/03: Leafs vs. Panthers (5-2)
- Feb. 5/04: Leafs vs. Senators – Corel Centre, Kanata, ON (5-4 OT)
- Oct. 5/05: Leafs vs. Senators (2-3 SO) (first shootout in NHL history)
- Oct. 22/05: Leafs vs. Flyers (2-5)
- Nov. 15/05: Leafs vs. Rangers (2-1)
- Dec. 23/05: Leafs vs. Bruins (2-1)
- Jan. 20/06: Leafs vs. Senators – Scotiabank Place, Kanata, ON (0-7)
- Jan. 26/06: Leafs vs. Sabres (4-8)
- Feb. 7/06: Leafs vs. Thrashers (4-1)
- Mar. 4/06: Leafs vs. Senators (2-4)
- Oct. 4/06: Leafs vs. Senators (1-4)
- Oct. 14/06: Leafs vs. Flames (5-4 OT) (Mats Sundin’s 500th career goal)
- Nov. 25/06: Leafs vs. Bruins (1-3)
- Nov. 28/06: Leafs vs. Bruins (1-4)
- Dec. 5/06: Leafs vs. Thrashers (2-5)
- Dec. 19/06: Leafs vs. Panthers (3-7)
- Dec. 26/06: Leafs vs. Wild (4-3)
- Dec. 30/06: Leafs vs. Senators (2-3 OT)
- Feb. 3/07: Leafs vs. Senators – Scotiabank Place, Kanata, ON (3-2 SO)
- Feb. 12/07: Leafs vs. Islanders (2-3 SO)
- Oct. 6/07: Leafs vs. Canadiens (4-3 OT)
- Feb. 2/08: Leafs vs. Senators (4-2)
- Feb. 5/08: Leafs vs. Panthers (0-8)
- Oct. 11/08: Leafs vs. Canadiens (1-6)
- Nov. 11/08: Leafs vs. Flames – Pengrowth Saddledome, Calgary (3-4)
- Nov. 13/08: Leafs vs. Oilers – Rexall Place, Edmonton (5-2)
- Dec. 23/08: Leafs vs. Stars (2-8)
- Dec. 30/08: Leafs vs. Thrashers (4-3 OT)
- Dec. 1/09: Leafs vs. Sabres (1-4)
- Jan. 30/09: Leafs vs. Penguins (5-4)
- Oct. 10/09: Leafs vs. Penguins (2-5)
- Nov. 17/09: Leafs vs. Senators – Scotiabank Place, Kanata, ON (2-3)
- Dec. 19/09: Leafs vs. Bruins (2-0)
- Dec. 21/09: Leafs vs. Sabres (2-3 OT)
- Dec. 26/09: Leafs vs. Canadiens (2-3 OT)
- Apr. 6/10: Leafs vs. Flyers (0-2)
- Nov. 6/10: Leafs vs. Sabres (2-3 OT)
- Nov. 13/10: Leafs vs. Canucks (3-5)
- Dec. 16/10: Leafs vs. Flames – Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary (2-5)
- Dec. 20/10: Leafs vs. Thrashers (3-6)
- Dec. 28/10: Leafs vs. Hurricanes (3-4)
- Mar. 2/11: Leafs vs. Penguins (3-2 OT)
- Mar. 5/11: Leafs vs. Blackhawks (3-5)
- Dec. 22/11: Leafs vs. Sabres (3-2)
- Jan. 3/12: Leafs vs. Lightning (7-3)
- Jan. 5/12: Leafs vs. Jets (4-0) (first time seeing the Jets in either of its iterations)
- Feb. 14/12: Leafs vs. Flames – Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary (1-5)
- Oct. 6/13: Leafs vs. Senators (5-4 SO)
- Oct. 30/13: Leafs vs. Flames – Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary (4-2)
- Dec. 17/13: Leafs vs. Panthers (1-3)
- Dec. 19/13: Leafs vs. Coyotes (2-1 SO)
- Apr. 5/14: Leafs vs. Jets (2-4)
- Oct. 18/14: Leafs vs. Red Wings (1-4) (Sam’s first NHL game)
- Dec. 16/14: Leafs vs. Ducks (6-2)
- Dec. 20/14: Leafs vs. Flyers (4-7)
- Mar. 13/15: Leafs vs. Flames – Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary (3-6)
- Nov. 30/15: Leafs vs. Oilers (3-0)
- Dec. 19/15: Leafs vs. Kings (4-0)
- Jan. 2/16: Leafs vs. Blues (5-1)
- Feb. 23/16: Leafs vs. Predators (2-3)
- Mar. 21/16: Leafs vs. Flames (5-2)
- Nov. 11/16: Leafs vs. Flyers (6-3)
- Dec. 19/16: Leafs vs. Ducks (2-3)
- Jan. 23/17: Leafs vs. Flames (4-0)
- Mar. 7/17: Leafs vs. Red Wings (3-2)
- Mar. 28/17: Leafs vs. Panthers (3-2)
- Oct. 18/17: Leafs vs. Red Wings (6-3)
- Dec. 6/17: Leafs vs. Flames (2-1)
- Dec. 10/17: Leafs vs. Oilers (1-0)
- Feb. 12/18: Leafs vs. Lightning (4-3)
The Leafs’ all-time record in games I’ve attended: 45W, 44L, 5D (that’s actual ties, not the NHL’s current understanding of what constitutes a tie)
I almost forgot I even had a bottle of Ativan. I say “had” because I just got rid of it. I hadn’t taken one since June anyway, but I wanted those pills out of my life. I used to use them semi-regularly, but the more I’ve learned about Ativan (and benzodiazepines in general) the more it frankly scares me, and since I’m currently tapering off antidepressants getting rid of that bottle seemed symbolically appropriate. I once wrote: “Don’t be afraid to take Ativan, Seroquel, or any other drug your psychiatrist or family doctor prescribes.” I stopped taking Seroquel in 2014; all being well I took my last Ativan nine months ago.
We’re a week into Phase Two of the Trintellix Taper and so far, so…not much of anything. I felt a bit sluggish to start, and while the obsessions that flared up the last time resurfaced they topped out at a 4/10. In other words: I’m experiencing mild, totally predictable withdrawal symptoms.
And that’s great, although I still don’t feel quite as good as a few weeks ago. If nothing else I’ve got a new benchmark: I felt so much better on 15mg than on 20. But it took three weeks on 15mg before I started feeling great, which suggests we’ll have a better idea of where things stand in mid-March.
So begins Phase Two of the Trintellix Taper, with me lowering my dosage from 15mg to 10. Zero is the ultimate goal, but the finish line’s been pushed back a bit: my doctor, who’ll henceforth be referred to as “Ze Doctor,” wants me to wait till I’m finished travelling to taper down again. I’ll be back from India April 20; our next appointment’s April 25. I’m expecting a brief downturn this weekend – I experienced moderate withdrawal symptoms last month – but I’m still feeling fantastic. Isn’t it incredible how a minute amount of chemicals can completely alter a human being?
Getting into the elevator following my appointment I was greeted by a guy in a Leafs hat. The interaction went as follows:
Him: “This elevator’s f*cked.”
Me: “Oh yeah?”
Him: “But that’s life, isn’t it? Up and down, up and down. And that’s why I do crystal meth.”
Him: “They’re trying to make me snap.”
Me: “…” (suddenly aware that we’re alone in a confined space)
(The elevator doors open. He and I walk out; I go in the opposite direction.)
I was supposed to go to an OCD group meeting tonight but bailed for a multitude of reason – chief among them the irresistible allure of sweats, a couch, and the Olympics. In another week I’ll have entered Stage Two of the Great Trintellix Taper of 2018. I’ve decided to give withdrawal another go, and so far the signs are encouraging: since I began tapering I’m feeling more alert, more motivated, and more energetic than I’ve felt in ages. I’m feeling more like myself.
I’m feeling more alive.
Again, I don’t want to seem like some sort of anti-antidepressant kook. That is absolutely not my intention. They’ve helped me get better; it’s entirely possible I’ll end up having to take them again at some point. But for now I’m better positioned to kick them than I was in 2014, when I more-or-less stopped taking antidepressants cold turkey before suffering the wrath of a discombobulated brain. I’ll have a better idea of where things stand in another couple weeks – but if there was ever a time for me to quit, it’s now.
Which brings me back to the group meeting I didn’t attend. Right now this particular support group just isn’t what I need. I need to keep doing the little things that got me better – like nights in front of the TV, for instance (hey, self-care’s important!). And I need to be a better mental health advocate. My engagement tends to wax and wane depending on how I’m feeling, but that’s something I plan on correcting. I don’t need to be in a roomful of strangers wallowing in their illness: I want to thrive in spite of mine, all the while using my experience to help those nearer the start of their OCD journey. My commitment to you is to keep telling my story in 2018 regardless of how I’m feeling. Because I anticipate feeling good – but I want to use my experience as rocket fuel to reshape the world.